The best on the box: The best Xbox One games of all time
A breakdown of the top titles to ever grace the Xbox One, which will grow as new classics are out in the gaming world.
By Nathan Lawrence
The Xbox One has been out in the wild since November 2013, which means there’s been just over four years of quality game releases to keep fans happy. It should come as no surprise that a bunch of the titles in my list of the Xbox One’s best games of all time include a fair chunk of third-party games. As an Xbox One owner, this is bittersweet.
On one hand, it speaks to the quality of third-party developers and publishers. On the other, it’s a stark reminder of the shortage of quality first-party exclusives for the Xbox One. If that doesn’t really bother you, you’re in luck because the last four years of the new-gen console generation has seen the release of some fantastic games.
That said, because of the inherent subjectivity of these types of articles, there are certain bigger titles you won’t find in my list. This includes popular games likeOverwatch. I’m a big shooter fan, but I’d honestly much rather put inRainbow Six Siege (which had a rocky launch) than Overwatch, despite the popularity and fun that can be found in Blizzard’s first foray into the FPS genre. This is mainly down to personal preference, as I prefer my shooters to have higher lethality and higher skill ceilings. What I’m getting at here is just because a game is popular, you won’t necessarily see it in this list (I’ve got to keep you on your toes somehow, right?).
The XCOM games are another obvious omission, but despite their turn-based nature (which is easier to do on console than most RTS games), they just play better on PC than they do on console. I would love to include Alien: Isolation, but there’s no denying it feels like a bloated experience, mostly thanks to a large section in the middle that removes all the fantastic tension and turns it into a boring shooter. Without that hours-long stretch, that would be on this list, for sure.
But less talking about what didn’t make the cut, and more delving into this living list of the best Xbox One games of all time.
I’m a professional games critic who plays far too many games every year. I have this weird thing where I tend to play as many notable games as possible throughout the gaming year. It’s good for expanding knowledge and finding new addictions, but it’s also bad because it chews up a lot of time and takes me away from my current gaming addictions (like Battlefield 1 and PUBG).
I’ve rekindled my love of all things Xbox now that I own an Xbox One X: seriously, coupled with a 4K TV, couch gaming is a hell of a lot of fun again. Before that, I’d been all about my PC for the longest time. In the past, I was the editor of Australian 360 magazine which, as the name implies, was an Australian-centric Xbox gaming mag that reigned at the time of the Xbox 360.
In more recent years, I’ve still played and written about a lot of Xbox One games – first-party exclusives and third-party titles – which is why it’s actually tricky to whittle this list down to just a couple of handfuls (for now)!
10. BioShock: The Collection
PLATFORMS: Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 4
RELEASE DATE: 15 September 2016
DEVELOPER: Blind Squirrel Games
PUBLISHER: 2K Games
Like with my "Best Xbox One Exclusives of All Time" round-up, I’ve limited this list to only one reskin. Given the quality of certain Xbox One remasters, this is no easy task, but it’s made easier by the fantastic job that Blind Squirrel Games did with BioShock: The Collection. Multiplayer from BioShock 2 has been left by the wayside but, honestly, that’s not a bad thing.
That’s because the heart of this series has always been player empowerment through deep gameplay mechanics and strong storytelling. It helps that the eye candy, resolution, and frame rates of all three BioShock games have been boosted across the board. The first two games have received the most love, but for console fans, BioShock Infinite now looks a whole lot better than it did on Xbox 360.
Having played through the first two games again (and Infinite not long before The Collection was available), it’s amazing to see how well these games have aged. BioShock 2 isn’t as ground-breaking as the original game, but it’s still a great experience. BioShock Infinite, on the other hand, is a strong return to form for the series, particularly with the mind-blowing way the story comes together in the end. This is the best way to enjoy an amazing shooter series.
click to buy BioShock: The Collection Xbox One from ozgameshop.com
BioShock collection includes all three titles in the BioShock video game series—BioShock, BioShock 2, and BioShock Infinite. Beside this, it also includes BioShock 2's Minerva's Den and BioShock Infinite's Burial at Sea. Go for it now!
PLATFORMS: PC, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3
RELEASE DATE: 18 November 2014
DEVELOPER: Rockstar North
PUBLISHER: Rockstar Games
Okay, so I kind of fibbed above because there are technically two remasters, but GTA V is something else, as far as the usual "slap on some higher-res textures" are concerned. Stacked next to the last-gen version, GTA V on Xbox One has a higher player count in GTA Online; new vehicles, guns and collectibles; and first-person mode, which is a surprisingly fantastic inclusion to the traditionally third-person series.
Returning players also had access to exclusive content, which helped soften the blow of repurchasing the "same" game 12 months after its release on Xbox 360. Outside of the new content, the new-gen version of GTA V is the best way to play Rockstar’s latest sprawling open-world action game. On a simplistic level, the boosted visual fidelity makes the game more immersive and the story more engaging.
Whether you’re after an entertaining storyline, a sprawling world littered with activities, or an epic multiplayer endgame, the appeal of Grand Theft Auto V is impossible to ignore.
Click to buy Grand Theft Auto V Xbox One from Microsoft Store
Steal cars, buy drugs and live out your wildest fantasies with this iconic game franchise.
Dishonored 2 is one of those fantastic sequels that escalates in all the right ways.
Everything about Dishonored 2 builds on the fantastic foundation of the game that preceded it. The story is bigger and better. Powers are expanded and more exciting. The fact that the dual protagonists play completely differently in a game that already empowers player choice means you’re pretty much guaranteed to be tempted to play it through at least twice.
While rich, the world of Dishonored felt restricted, which is most likely due to the hardware constraints of last-gen consoles. In the new-gen era, though, this isn’t an issue for developers Arkane Studios, which means Xbox One players are rewarded with a massive world to explore. Dishonored 2 is one of those hub-world games where you’ll soon forget what you were doing moments ago, because you’ve been tempted off your intended path by dozens of competing distractions.
By far the biggest achievement of Dishonored 2, as is the trend with Arkane Studios games, is you can play your own way. Loud and proud. Silent and deadly. Or somewhere in between.
Dishonored 2 not only doesn’t punish you for this; it actively encourages you to play your own way.
Dishonored 2 Xbox One Game from ozgameshop.com
Choose your role between Emily or her royal protector and father Corvo Attano and reclaim the throne, today, through Dishonored 2!
For the most part these days, zombie games are pretty stale. For every Left 4 Dead or Call of Duty WW2 Nazi Zombies mode, there are half a dozen examples of developers late to the brain-eating zeitgeist with boring takes on the undead apocalypse. Dying Light isn’t one of those games.
In many respects, Techland’s clunky-but-fun Dead Island games were a beta test for Dying Light, which is one of the best zombie games, to date. There’s a massive world filled with activities (and of course, zombies) to explore, but what sets it apart from other zombie games is a strong emphasis on melee combat, and an even stronger focus on perfectly executed parkour.
At a time when Ubisoft was still struggling to perfect free running in its third-person game (a lot easier in third-person games, you’d think), and the best (but far from perfect) instance of first-person parkour was Mirror’s Edge, Techland knocked it out of the park as just one part of its gameplay formula. Throw a grappling hook into the mix, which isn’t restricted to fixed points, and the fantastic momentum is elevated further. There are scores of hours of fun to be found in Dying Light alone, and co-op is a whole new level of awesome.
Click to buy Dying Light Xbox One from Microsoft Store
Dying Light is welcoming you in a vast and dangerous open world where you play the role of Kyle Crane, an undercover operative sent to infiltrate the quarantined city of Harran, and the main protagonist of the game.
It took a long, long time for Ubisoft to get Assassin’s Creed right. The free running was never quite right, hard-fail (and cookie-cutter) pursuit missions frustrated, and you basically mashed the counter button during fights to win against enemies who came at you one at a time.
Those issues have been around since the dawn of the series, and were even present in the best recent entry of the series, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. The trick with Black Flag, though, was it was two games in one: a clunky Assassin’s Creed game and a fantastically immersive Seven Seas simulator. That’s probably why Ubisoft is making Skull & Bones.
Black Flag love aside, Assassin’s Creed Origin is so dangerously close to perfection it’s enough to rekindle my love of the series (which has waned since Black Flag) and entice newcomers. Ubisoft Montréal still doesn’t know how to create a meaningful story ending, but that’s about the only Assassin’s Creed sin that returns in Origins. Everything else is evolved and elevated over what came before.
You can easily lose hours in a single sitting exploring the beautifully realised Ancient Egypt setting, with one of the best protagonists the series has ever seen, and compelling side missions that complement a vengeance-filled main quest.
Click for Assassin’s Creed Origins Xbox One from Microsoft Store
Takes the role of a Medjay named Bayek and protect the people of the Ptolemaic Kingdom during a time of widespread upheaval. The game also features revised combat mechanics. Order it now from MS Store!
For a time, this sequel to 2013’s rebooted Tomb Raider was an Xbox One exclusive, and that was one hell of a coup for Microsoft (especially given Lara Croft’s Sony roots). The 2013 reboot was a solid restarting point, but Rise of the Tomb Raider had Empire Strikes Back-like sequel execution. There are giant hub worlds to explore, actual tombs to raid (with some clever puzzles), and vertigo-inducing platforming. It also helps that there’s top-notch action (or stealthing, if that’s your thing) and an appropriately deep RPG system, with tough choices to make between upgrades.
Writer Rhianna Pratchett takes the newly reborn legend and, like any good sequel, puts her through some challenging scenarios. Where the first game lost its grounded feel after it veered too far into supernatural territory in the third act, Rise of the Tomb Raider keeps both of Lady Croft’s boots in the mud throughout her adventure (where they work best). The result: a storyline that’s complemented by fully-developed characters that deserve the same legendary status as Tomb Raider’s leading lady.
Rise of the Tomb Raider for Xbox One from Microsoft Store
Play as Lara Croft through various environments, battling enemies, and completing puzzle platforming sections, while using improvised weapons and gadgets in order to progress through the story!
Name a better space-based action-horror experience. I’ll wait. Okay, I’ll help you.
You could say Alien: Isolation, but you’d have to jump back to my intro to see why that didn’t make the cut. Alternatively, you could say Dead Space, or its superior sequel Dead Space 2, but they both had obvious safe spaces which, once learnt, lifted all of the beautiful brown-pants tension.
Prey, on the other hand, doesn’t buy into safe spaces. Any object in any room could be a mighty, morphing alien creature waiting to reveal its true form and dine on your flesh. You could argue that back-tracking is safe, but then you’d be ignoring those moments where you’re confidently sprinting back through a "cleared" area, only to run into a curious patrolling guard. Or a towering Nightmare.
I’m not a huge fan of the deus ex machina-like ending, but those few minutes of narrative laziness aren’t enough to spoil the truly powerful storytelling that came before it. This storytelling is complemented by believable characters, some of whom you’ll hate, and others you’ll want to save, even if you’ve decided to sentence the Talos I space station to a fiery fate. Prey isn’t just the Xbox One game of 2017 [LINK my ‘Best Xbox One games of 2017’ here], it’s one of the best action-RPGs of all time.
Buy Prey Xbox One from Microsoft Store
Takes the role of Morgan Yu, a human aboard a space station with numerous species of hostile aliens known collectively as the Typhon and play to survive using weapons and resources aboard the station to fend off and defeat the Typhon!
Phew, finally, I’ve got to an Xbox One exclusive, and it’s pretty damn high up the list, too. While the core Forza Motorsport games will arguably have greater appeal to racing purists, the Forza Horizon spin-off games have something for every type of racer, including those who don’t normally play racing games. Yes, that includes me, whose favourite racing games of old tend to involve ramming, scoring points for spinning tyres on pedestrians or slashing at opponents from a chariot.
Forza Horizon 3 is the best of the bunch, and poised to be even better once the Xbox One X enhancements drop. It’s already gorgeous, though, because of course it is: it’s a Forza game that has a pedigree of pushing the boundaries of lifelike visual fidelity. But those realistic visuals are complemented by a fantastic sense of accessibility and, more importantly, fun. Forza Horizon 3 doesn’t take itself too seriously, and this is most notable in the horse-powered kick to the nostalgic feels with the Hot Wheels DLC.
The shrunken-down Australian setting is a nice touch as well, in a game that constantly threatens to get me more interested in a genre I used to always find boring.
Click to buy Forza Horizon 3 for Xbox One from ozgameshop.com
The coast of Australia is your playground. Smash through red post boxes, tin sheds and narrowly avoid roos with Forza Horizon 3.
If you scroll through this list, you’ll notice that there are a few games where you can shoot things. I’m a big fan of that.
So, to say that Ori and the Blind Forest can melt the stone-cold heart of this digital mass murderer should clue you on to the universal appeal of this beloved game. In a gaming world that’s continually obsessed with big-budget AAA games, it’s refreshing to come across a smaller-budget gem that has the kind of staying power that it’ll be mentioned in "best games of all time" lists like these for years to come.
Ori and the Blind Forest can be knocked over in around eight hours, but you’d be missing out if you just main-pathed it. This is the kind of Metroidvania-style game that entices you to revisit previously-conquered areas with new abilities to sniff out previously-inaccessible areas. The world is so beautifully realised with its gorgeous art design and pitch-perfect soundtrack that you don’t want to hit the end credits.
Ori and the Blind Forest will have you crying tears of sadness and joy in a haunting experience that will have you hooked from early on and engaged throughout.
Click to buy Ori and the Blind Forest from Microsoft Store
The forest of Nibel is dying and Ori is there to save his home. Explore a deeply emotional story about love and sacrifice, today.
Like Ori and the Blind Forest, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is one of those games that doesn’t require you to love the genre to appreciate its special brand of magic. It’s so epic, you can get your money’s worth by beating the 50-hour campaign. But main-pathing it is ill-advised because there’s so many truly worthy distractions in this beautifully realised fantasy world.
Throw in all the DLC with a completionist approach, and you’re looking at 200+ hours of gameplay. The Witcher 3 has such an addictive gameplay loop it’s tricky to play in short bursts; CD Projekt Red’s expert alchemy means the "just five more minutes" line will become your mantra when playing this game.
From fighting bandits and besting challenging beasties, to losing yourself in the main story or plumbing the depths of poignant side quests (the Bloody Baron missions absolutely live up to the hype), this is the kind of single-player experience that flies in the face of the bigger publishers moving towards exclusive multiplayer offerings. It helps that some recent love for Xbox One X owners is a compelling reason to return to this enchanting game.
Click to buy The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Xbox One from Microsoft Store
Play as Geralt of Rivia, a monster hunter known as a Witcher and experience variety of weapons, including bombs, a crossbow and two swords. Geralt has five magical signs at his disposal too! To enjoy entire this adventure order this game, today!
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